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Special Events

Guest Room: Getting the Business

Frank Goldstin gives his top tips for selling meeting and event services to corporations Corporate special events account for 35.8 percent of special event revenues, our readers told us last year, and more than 70 percent of you expect corporate events to be a top area of growth. If you would like your business to get growing with corporate events, event producer Frank Goldstin has some hints. Goldstin is president and CEO of G/M! Productions, a 12-year-old meeting and event production firm based in Chicago.

Special Events Magazine: What's the best way to get your foot into the corporation's door?

Frank Goldstin: Learn about the company you are calling on - what their core business is and, if possible, what types of programs they produce on an annual basis.

Have your capabilities materials ready to go. At the very least, you need a marketing kit or brochure that outlines your services and provides background on your company. It helps if you also have a Web site to which you can direct the client for immediate reference.

Instead of dropping your marketing kit or brochure in the mail, send it via messenger or overnight mail. It shows you are both prompt and serious.

Q: Once you've made the initial contact, then what?

A: State exactly when you will follow up - and stick to it. Corporate planners remember things like this. When following up, remember the "Four P's" - be prompt, personable, patient and persistent. I can remember calling on a corporate planner for more than a year and leaving many, many short follow-up messages - at least one a month. A year and a half later, these short calls paid off with a call back from the planner. It took awhile, but we ended up getting the business.

Q: How should you prepare for the first meeting?

A: Have an outline prepared for your meeting. Review with the planner what you hope to accomplish during this meeting, i.e., presenting your capabilities and services and learning about their responsibilities and the nature of programs they plan. Most importantly, listen and ask questions carefully. It is here that you will learn the hot buttons that will become your sales targets. Explain the ways you successfully work with your clients - how you charge for your services and what support systems are in place within your company to provide a safety net to your client.

Q: Should you try to make the sale?

A: If you feel you are the right match, go for it - ask to submit a proposal. But remember, only ask for the business if you can successfully deliver the goods. And send a thank-you note post-meeting.

Q: How should you handle the request for proposal?

A: First, read the RFP carefully to make sure you understand the objectives, criteria and services requested. I liken the RFP process to being arrested: You only get one phone call - in this case, to the planner - after receiving it. This is your only chance to ask questions and confirm when you will be submitting your presentation. Calling a planner two or three times with last-minute questions is unacceptable and reflects poorly on your organizational skills.

The proposal you present should be detailed, address each area of concern, present a solid financial summary and, of course, be free of errors or typos. Send the presentation via overnight mail or messenger service. The next phone call you will make is a couple of days after you have submitted the proposal to follow up on its receipt.

Once you have made it to the final round of companies being considered for the program, you may be asked to submit client references and recent project profiles that match the program you are being considered for. Have these ready and waiting to send at a moment's notice.

Q: And when you get the business?

A: First, send another thank-you note. Then, develop an action plan to service your new client, and keep the lines of communication open at all times. Service, added value, flexibility and a can-do positive attitude will make you an asset to the corporate planner and increase your chances for repeat business. Now, all you have to do is deliver the goods and live up to your reputation. Remember, you are only as good as your last event or program.

Frank Goldstin can be reached at 312/397-9100 or at [email protected].

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